One of the most significant changes in running technique in recent years is the shift from heel striking to mid-foot striking. There are many reasons for this shift including increased performance and reduced injuries. While most people will tend to run the way they walk, heel to toe, runners should shift to a mid-foot strike if they want to reduce injuries and increase efficiency.
There are many problems inherent with heel striking. With heel strike technique the foot reaches out in front of the body producing a braking effect on each stride. This obviously reduces performance but also lends to increased injuries including shin splints, achilles, calf, hamstring and IT band injuries and plantar fasciitis.
Most runners who heel strike tend to run very upright with excessive vertical movement, leading to a lack of performance. To correct this, forward lean is required and needs to come from the ankles, not the waist. To help with forward lean make sure to stretch your calves regularly and while you’re running think of falling forward from the ankles. Forward lean will decrease vertical movement and allow your foot to land underneath your hip joint (mid-foot strike). On the other hand, with heel striking your foot lands ahead of your hip lending to injuries and decreased performance. With heel striking the knee is in a more locked fully extended position at impact increasing injury risk while in mid-foot striking the knee will be comfortably flexed at impact, reducing shock-related stress.
Think of the running stride as a circular motion with the foot landing directly below the hip. Resist the temptation to reach the foot out in front. We cannot cover all aspects of running in this format, however with these adjustments you will be well on your way to more efficient running with fewer injuries.
Interested in learning more about your gait? Honsberger Physio+ offers in-depth Running Assessments. For more details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org - 'Building A Better Runner', one stride at a time!
Written by Brent Andrews BPE, A.T.,C
Certified Athletic Trainer + Foot Specialist